Wednesday, May 27, 2009

john donne & the gift of voice

john donne &
the gift of voice

& now good morrow to
our waking soules…"
i met john donne thru’ jack mcdermott,
rogue professor of english at the small

jesuit college i attended circa 1970 &
struggled thru his vigorous scrutiny
of passionate sexual love.

i didn’t get it. that business of love

being the intense & absolute experience,

which isolates the lovers from the real

or makes the lover eschew the life

led a priori the present lover –

a perfect immortal love which immortalized
the lovers. my guiding love construction,
at the time was love is god is love the
existential pimp which i foolishly penned
in a poem where an innocent child

queries his mother on her relationship

with a self-absorbed, dysfunctional
deity in what i thought to be tame scato-
logical verse. i got my fifteen minutes
of infamy when ole jack mac

published the poem in the all too catholic
student newspaper. there was no good
morrow to my waking soul which watched

out of fear. i was vilified, excoriated,
& almost rusticated

until the college realized it could exploit

the debate engendered; replace lost

conservative coin with 1st amendment

lucre. for weeks the northwest catholic

corridor rang with commentary

about that poem. but fool that i am

i made the mistake of equating notoriety
with talent. when i looked to jack to
validate my verse after i left the college
he pawned me off on a colleague

who saw little merit in my writing,
a vague disembodied voice, he said,
& not as good as some of his better
students. i felt angry & used but not
discouraged. i looked to donne

in those dark days, perversely hoping to
find something to spite jack; to show him
that i was better than some obscure
marginalized voice providing “found”
poetry for predatory academics.

instead, looking for something else, i
found in donne, imagery, vulgar & sublime.
i found a mixture of beauty & bad taste;
the sensual conjoined with the spirit,
yet all charged with &

pointing to the ineffable. i was suddenly
on familiar ground; i reminisced/regressed
through my experience. i seized, broke up
images, sounds & sound symbols, reassembled
them in abstracted verse –

& claimed my lusty poetic voice.

© Joseph McNair; 2009

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